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November 8, 2012

Collegian rolls thesis into Flight 93 film: Special screening slated for Saturday in memorial chapel

— What started as an undergrad thesis project in Syracuse University’s film, radio and television program could potentially catapult a Somerset native into the national spotlight and “kick-start” her career in film.

The buzz for “We Were Quiet Once,” a Flight 93 documentary from local filmmaker Laura Beachy of Somerset and Cody Sage of Chardon, Ohio, has been getting louder over the past two months, following a successful run on crowd-funding site Kickstarter.com. According to Beachy and crew, the next step is a special screening of “Quiet,” which takes place Saturday in the very heart of the film’s setting – at the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel in Shanksville.

“A public feedback screening is what we’re calling it,” said Beachy. “Anyone is welcome ... we’ll also be around for anyone who wants to ask questions.”

The showing is free, and after the 50-minute viewing, attendees can submit written feedback to Beachy and her crew – feedback that she says will be put to good use in the film’s final editing phases.

“Content-wise, it’s completely done,” Beachy said. “(It’s) very polished – we are extremely close to the final version.”

In October, the film raised $6,682 via Kickstarter.com, a site where anyone can donate to a cause, project or artistic venture. Another $3,000 was sent in by strangers, including a $1,000 check from a Youngstown, Ohio, man that the crew had never met before.

“We almost raised $10,000, which is great,” Beachy said, emboldened by the national and local support. “They believed in it enough that they were willing to put money into it without even knowing the people involved.”

The money went toward color correction and sound mixing, two lengthy and expensive processes. Donors will be credited in the film as producers.

Ryan Balton, a 23-year-old ESPN studio operator with credits for CBS, National Geographic, PBS and The Travel Channel, also was brought on to help with post-production.

“(Laura’s) the brilliant and gifted storyteller, and I’m the one who has the keyboard shortcuts memorized for the editing software we use,” he joked.

Currently, the team is planning to enter “Quiet” in the Tribeca film festival in Manhattan, for which the deadline is December. Beachy said she hopes to premiere the film in January at the Arcadia Theater in Windber.

For the 22-year-old Beachy, telling the story of her community’s struggle to come to terms with the most jarring and frightening attack ever perpetrated on American soil is as important as telling a personal 9/11 story. The documentary is, as described on its official website, WeWereQuietOnce.com, “about the need to personally memorialize an international event.”

“Quiet” follows three subjects, each of whom contribute to the record and remembrance of Flight 93 and its victims in their own way: Terry Butler, an eyewitness to the Shanksville crash, has covered himself with tattoos of 9/11 imagery and passenger names; Father Alphonse Mascherino worked to build the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel – the first permanent memorial to the Shanksville victims – yet now his health is failing; Rick Flick, a Flight 93 first responder, organized the Somerset leg of America’s 9/11 Ride as a way to combat the feelings of helplessness that have stuck with him since that day.

One personal 9/11 story that doesn’t appear in the film is Beachy’s. As an 11-year-old Eagle View Elementary sixth-grader, Beachy remembers that faculty had been instructed to keep TV sets off, worried that reports of a nearby plane crash would frighten pupils.

Her teacher, however, kept the news on, telling the class: “This is history. You need to watch.”

As her second screening approaches – the first was a rough cut shown at Syracuse for her thesis review – Beachy said she’s nervous but excited to be nearing the end of this two-year odyssey. The public screening crowd will be her toughest audience.

She wants it that way.

“The biggest critics should be (the people) it is about,” she said.

Balton said he believes in the project’s ability to strike a poignant chord with audiences – local or national.

“We can be telling stories and invoking emotions in audiences and bringing little-known pieces of history to them,” he said. “I think (it) is a very powerful thing to be doing.”

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